Chirac 'to escape' probe of huge private expenses

23rd February 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 22 (AFP) - A criminal investigation into the vast dining expenses that President Jacques Chirac incurred when he was mayor of Paris is to be dropped because the events occurred too long ago, a French newspaper said on Sunday.

PARIS, Feb 22 (AFP) - A criminal investigation into the vast dining expenses that President Jacques Chirac incurred when he was mayor of Paris is to be dropped because the events occurred too long ago, a French newspaper said on Sunday.

The prosecutor's office has recommended that no charges be brought in connection with the 14 million francs (EUR 2.13 million, USD 2.7 million) that went on food bills for Chirac and his wife Bernadette in between 1987 and 1995, according to the Journal du Dimanche.

The judge in charge of the case was expected to announce its termination in the coming days, it said.

The investigation was launched in 2002 as a result of a plea made by the Socialist mayor of Paris Bertrand Delanoe.

On election the year before, he demanded an inspection of the Hotel de Ville - City Hall - accounts which revealed the massive expenditure on receptions and personal consumption of food and wine by the Chiracs. Of the 14 million francs, 9.5 million was paid in cash, the inspection found.

According to the Journal du Dimanche, investigators found evidence of a number of faked invoices but none was signed by a person holding public office, which meant no offence could be substantiated.

The "food bills" affair badly embarrassed Chirac, following as it did a succession of other scandals concerning the financing of both his RPR party and his personal travel expenses.

Earlier this month his close ally Alain Juppe was convicted of illegal party funding during his time as Chirac's finance director at the Paris city hall.

Chirac, who was mayor of the capital from 1977 to 1995, is protected by legal immunity as long as he stays in office as president, but could be drawn into any of the several on-going investigations into corruption at the Hotel de Ville once he leaves the presidency.

© AFP

                                                              Subject: France news

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